Bees that live in heavily-populated areas like cities are exposed to disease at a higher rate than those who live in rural or suburban environments.
It’s expected that a certain degree of stress is involved for humans living in a city environment. Perhaps it’s the air pollution that can affect a person, or how crowded the city is, or how expensive it can be. It may seem obvious that city life has these effects of people, but what we may only now have started learning is that this stress takes a toll on bees as well.
A study conducted by North Carolina State University suggests that bees living in urban environments experience more stress than bees in rural areas. The research team first speculated that aspects of urban areas could increase the bees’ exposure to harmful microorganisms and that in turn this may be affecting their immune systems.
The team indeed learned that urban bees are exposed to more disease-causing pathogens as compared to rural bees, and that this could be because, just like humans, bees in urban environments encounter a larger population density and thus are more likely come into contact and spread disease to each other. It is also possible that the problem lies in the nature of the cityscape itself, which could be a more effective breeding-ground for germs in general as compared to a more rural environment.
Research for the study concluded that feral bees in the city are more likely to survive such pathogens because their immune system is stronger. However, bees kept by beekeepers may be more likely to peril in the same situation. According to livescience, “Managed bees typically live in much larger colonies; more individuals in a hive means more stress, and can also mean more opportunities to spread viruses and parasites. And the pesticides that beekeepers use to protect their bees from mites and other pests can have the unfortunate side effect of reducing the bees’ ability to defend themselves against pathogen attacks.”
A researcher in the study, David Tarpy, told livescience that the next step is finding out why bees are declining.
If you’d like to read the study, visit PLOS ONE.